James T. Fulton has kindly shared with me an update with his latest observations and thoughts about Visual Snow.
Four Theoretical Causes Of Visual Snow
Fulton says that he recently received a substantial number of new responses to his survey. Reviewing that data and also the work of famous neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks, he currently believes that there are theoretically four viable causes of Visual Snow: two are prescription drugs and two are recreational drugs.
The four “disruptor molecules”:
- Members of the penicillin family, including amoxicillin
- Levadopa (L-Dopa)
- A derivative of LSD
- A metabolite known as carboxylic THC (THC-COOH) , generated within the brain as a result of the THC in marijuana.
How Drugs Could Cause Visual Snow
The four molecules exhibit a common chemical composition when they are within the blood brain barrier. That composition turns out to also be common with glutamate and aspartate. The composition consists of a carboxyl group on their surface.
Glutamate and aspartate are “brain fuels” and in their case each molecule contains a second carboxyl group that can be released during the fueling process as carbon dioxide. This changes the composition of the remaining residue. The result Fulton says is the subsequent release of the residue of the process. For glutamate that residue is gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).
In the case of the four candidate molecules listed above however – they do not contain a second carboxyl group that can be released in a timely manner. If they cannot release CO2 and cause the explusion of the residue then they may remain and interfere with this fueling process for an indefinite period. This is what Fulton believes could lead to Visual Snow.
In the case of L-Dopa, Dr Sacks had found that it was expelled from the fueling site within hours to days. The other three candidate disruptor molecules meanwhile are known to be more physically stable. So the problem is that they could remain in a disruptive location for a long time, potentially for a human lifetime.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder
Unfortunately much confusion has been caused by the clinical characterisation of Visual Snow and the similarity to HPPD.
These four potential causes do not relate in any way to HPPD according to Fulton. It has to be stressed in my opinion that a) Visual Snow can be drug induced but b) it is also a condition distinct from HPPD.
HPPD deals with hallucinations while Visual Snow does not. Fulton notes that HPPD appears to be caused by the parent of the LSD derivative or the parent of the carbonyl THC.
Genetics And Overmedication
Fulton mentioned in his presentation at the Visual Snow Conference that the most recent case he had at the time was a 7 year old girl who had taken amoxicillin. This antibiotic is very commonly used and given at the dentists for example. But the dosage that this little girl may have received is very small. So the question was: how could this be?
Fulton notes that there are increasingly suggestions that changes in DNA may make one more susceptible to Visual Snow.
On the other hand there are cases with significant dosages. He has also had a more recent case where there was a documented and significant use of a penicillin derivative on a 9 month old child who then got Visual Snow.
He underlines: “It is becoming important to consider both genetic and overmedication factors when discussing children with VS as far back as they can remember”.
A Theoretical Cure
In terms of a theoretical cure for one of the scenarios (the penicillin one), it may logically involve substances that could destroy penicillin and its derivatives (e.g. penicillinase). Fulton believes this is possible but difficult.
Antibiotics resistance is a trending medical topic, certain bacteria can feed on antibiotics such as penicillin. But engineered bacteria of this sort for human consumption embarks on potentially dangerous waters.
It is worth noting that the amount of money and effort that would be required to achieve approval for clinical testing would be quite high (in the millions).
Practical lessons from this would be to avoid all of these four potential causes, as well as external glutamate and aspartate (certain gym supplements and food as example sources) which presumably also interferes with this process temporarily. If you have children it is very important that you are aware of these possible causes, in case your children do acquire a genetic predisposition.
Carboxylic THC is the major cause of Visual Snow, according to the statistics of Fulton’s survey. This is important to consider: Marijuana is discussed far too casually in forums about Visual Snow in my opinion.
If this scenario as Fulton theorises were to turn out to be true and we are not be able to cure the “interference” as yet – there may still be things which can weaken it, or accelerate the natural removal process (I suspect).
You Can Help
Realistically, if and when it comes to it – the average person will not have money to make much of of a dent in the theoretical pursuit of a cure. Likely as well for the other suspected and undiscovered causes.
Currently, and as I have said previously – the greatest strength we have is in our collective knowledge and experience. By filling out Mr Fulton’s survey you can help in an effective manner.